As we have already pointed out, the red, white and blue deal cooked up between the British government and the DUP, which was given the appearance of solidity in last week’s Safeguarding the Union command paper, is unashamedly one-sided.
This should trouble anyone committed to the Good Friday Agreement, which talks of how the sovereign government should exercise its power with “rigorous impartiality”. Professor Katy Hayward of Queen’s University Belfast helpfully explains that this obligation serves two purposes.
The first, she says, is to protect nationalists in Northern Ireland from discrimination and neglect; the second is to protect unionists in a future united Ireland from the very same.
This Conservative government is a stranger to rigour of any sort, so it is no surprise that impartiality on the north has been barely a blip on its radar.
The rot set in when the Tories and the DUP fell into each other’s jaws with their 2017 confidence-and-supply arrangement.
Prof Hayward, writing for the Constitution Society, says that from this point “the internal dynamics and priorities of the Conservative Party were shaped by those of a single Northern Ireland party”.
Brexit was the anvil upon which this awkward alliance was hammered into shape. When the DUP’s most avid Brexit fantasists realised that the charlatan Boris Johnson had in fact agreed an Irish Sea border with the EU rather than their coveted Irish land border, Tory ministers queued up to join them in their protests against the Protocol.
The DUP, meanwhile, assiduously harnessed the anger of loyalists who were not only anti-protocol but anti-agreement.
Brexit was the anvil upon which this awkward alliance was hammered into shape. When the DUP’s most avid Brexit fantasists realised that the charlatan Boris Johnson had in fact agreed an Irish Sea border with the EU rather than their coveted Irish land border, Tory ministers queued up to join them in their protests against the Protocol
It is this toxic and entitled combination which led to the collapse of Stormont and two years of drift and damage.
The government spent its time pandering to the whims of the DUP rather than engage in any sensible and constructive dialogue with the other assembly parties.
It also enabled the DUP and unionism’s fringe figures to hold the rest of us to ransom; where is the incentive to solve problems by working the levers of democracy and devolution?
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has now deigned to go back to Stormont, to the dismay of casuist hair-splitters like Jim Allister.
Whether this new executive is sustainable remains to be seen, but there can be no doubt that the trashing of rigorous impartiality has only added further instability to a political system that has always tended to dysfunction. We deserve better.